Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Pageants

It's that time of year when the children of the local church are made to don robes and false beads to participate in the nativity of the annual Christmas Pageants. The tiny three-year-old waves at his mother while half a dozen fathers slip out of their pews and sneak up to the front of the congregations to take a picture of their little ones. Grandparents smile lovingly as the parishioners quietly sing Silent Night.

For many of us it is our first experience performing in a theatre like setting. Several holiday shows make fun of the competition that can go on for one of the important roles or the disappointment at having to play a shepherd once again. But it is a tradition that links the theatre to the church that dates back to the Middle Ages. Because most of their flock was illiterate, the European church used pageants and performances to instruct their people on the Bible stories.

But today's pageants may have an adverse effect. How many of the poor children who participate in these rituals are made to do so against their will? As fun as your first theatrical experience can be, being made to stand in front of a group of strangers in a ill-fitting robe and an itchy beard or cardboard angel wings doesn't always sound like my idea of fun. Either way, the ritual is important. So the question is how can we make this a more enjoyable experience for our young future theatre goers?

I think this can be solved by getting back to the why of what we are doing. Who is it for and what do we gain by seeing this story enacted? It can't just be because it's something we have to do every year and Mrs. Smith retired so we need to find someone new to run the pageant. What is the story and how does it resonate to this day?

Happy Birthday: Evelyn Nesbit (1884-1967) & Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957)

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